South Africa’s sports industry has made little progress in the post-apartheid era


There has always been a stormy relationship between race and South African sports. Unfortunately, this has altered the sporting landscape in the country.

Did you know even gambling was illegal during the apartheid era? But thanks to the change of government in 1994, you can now legally bet at leading betting companies like Marshall’s World of Sport.

But does that mean all is well now? No.

“Over the last 20 years, the processes to change the face of sport have been practically ineffective,” Willie Basson, a member of the sports ministry commission in charge of racial change, told The Guardian.

To appreciate why this situation continues to unfold like this, one must understand South Africa’s history.


Racism was practiced in South Africa for many years. The idea was to have laws favoring South Africa’s white minority. These laws included, Population Registration Act, Group Areas Act, Race Classification Act, and more.

The African National Congress (ANC) protested apartheid, and Nelson Mandela was at the forefront of the movement. The ANC approved the Program of Action in 1949. This program encouraged people to stand up to racist apartheid laws.

The ANC’s protests led to the party being banned. Nelson Mandela was also imprisoned in 1964 as a result.

As the anti-apartheid voices were repressed, people’s lives, and that of the entire country, changed. And sports, was not exempt from this.

Professional sports ban

In 1958, FIFA recognized the white Football Association of South Africa (FASA) as the country’s sole governing body of soccer.

Other international sports bodies followed suit with bans in the 1970s and 1980s. For example, the International Cricket Council (ICC) banned South Africa from participating in international cricket events in 1970 for refusing to include men of color in the national team.

The International Rugby board disqualified South Africa from international competition in 1981. This is after South Africa disobeyed the 1977 Commonwealth Gleneagles Agreement. This agreement barred sport contact with South Africa until measures were made to end apartheid.

Apartheid ends, but a few issues remain

The decades of unrest and segregation were gradually killing the country. As global racial and cultural views evolved, South Africa lost allies.

Mandela continued to oppose and fight apartheid, albeit in a nonviolent manner. He was elected president in 1994, and a new government of national unity was formed.

Since the end of apartheid, inclusivity began to take root in Sport; however, the progress has been slow. For instance, the SA national rugby team was accused of discriminating against black players and favoring white players in 2015. Many black South Africans argued that rugby officials did not recruit black players.

This is one case showing the problem with sports in the post-apartheid era. But all said and done; the future is bright for South Africa.


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